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Leukemia

Chronic lymphocytic leukemia

Chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) is a typically slow-growing cancer that begins in lymphocytes in the bone marrow and extends into the blood. It can also spread to lymph nodes and organs such as the liver and spleen. CLL develops when too many abnormal lymphocytes grow, crowding out normal blood cells and making it difficult for the body to fight infection.

The term "chronic" means that the disease develops slowly. The abnormal lymphocytes take longer to develop and multiply. A disease like CLL, therefore, may take several years before it becomes serious. Comparatively, the progression of acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL) is very quick. ALL may advance in a much shorter period.

Chronic lymphocytic leukemia symptoms

CLL is a slow-growing disease and many signs of CLL are vague. The symptoms of CLL tend to develop over time. For many people, CLL symptoms may at first seem to be some kind of non-specific change in overall health. There may be an increased sense of fatigue or weakness. Some people may experience flu-like symptoms, like night sweats or enlarged lymph nodes. Many people are diagnosed with CLL because of a blood test for an unrelated condition.

Some of the conditions that may arise as CLL slowly develops and spreads may include:

Chronic lymphocytic leukemia treatment options

Treatment for CLL may include radiation therapychemotherapystem cell transplant and/or immunotherapy. Your integrated team of leukemia experts will answer your questions and recommend treatment options based on your unique diagnosis and needs.

A common chemotherapy treatment for chronic leukemias is oral chemotherapy. Patients with CLL may receive FCR (fludarabine, cyclophosphamide and rituximab) and bendamustine. EBRT is a common radiation therapy option for CLL, and can help to reduce swelling in the lymph nodes, liver or spleen.

Next topic: What is chronic myeloid leukemia?